Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Married Life

Originally uploaded by Legendary Classic
Married Life is a film that deserves a wide audience, yet is one of those remarkable films that no matter how hard you try it feels as though you cannot fully describe the tale it tells. At once a dark comedy, film noir, and cautionary tale Married Life defies definition and gracefully transcends the genres from which it borrows due to the talents of writer & director Ira Sachs, writer Oren Moverman & the talented cast.

At its heart Married Life addresses two primary themes: the changes imposed upon us by our environment, and how well do we know the people we love. These themes are woven into the film with the for once artfully executed device of a first person narrator, one of the major players in the story, Richard played by Pierce Brosnan. Richard looks back on the event after it has happened and uses his current detachment from the situation to keep a certain levity about it, and calmly relate it to the audience.

The world Married Life takes place in is one that has recently experienced World War II and is still feeling the results of the war, though is trying its best to ignore those circumstances; this is where our first theme of changes our environment force upon us comes into play in a very key way through Rachel McAdams award worthy performance as young war widow Kay. Kay is the heart of the films disjointed love triangles; she is caught between Harry (Chris Cooper) and Richard who are both intent on making Kay enjoy life like the young beautiful woman she is; Kay however, pretends to enjoy the attention but the mere reference of her deceased husband sends Kay into a more emotional state than either suitor can conjure on his own flirtations. The attention of these men is relished by Kay because they offer the companionship she no longer has.

Our second victim or his environment is Harry; though he is the opposite of his mistress Kay. While Kay would have loved to remain happily married to her husband, Harry longs for escape from a marriage he finds confining because he feels that his wife’s desire for physical intimacy is not the “real” love he so craves. He longs for what he perceives to be true intimacy, the fruits of his relationship with Kay.

Richard, our jovial narrator is a victim of his environment as well though he is the quickest to admit it. The instant his best friend Harry reveals his desire to leave his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) he introduces Richard to Kay and instantly Richard is insanely jealous of Harry’s having Kay. Richard becomes the victim of his circumstances because he is trapped because of his feelings for Kay and his loyalty to two of his best friends in Harry and Pat.

Not to be overlooked is Harry’s wife Pat. Pat knows Harry no longer loves her and that she is in love with their friend John, but she traps herself in the marriage by refusing to believe that Harry cannot survive without her and she is unwilling to have him live a life of shame if she were to leave him.

At the end of the film Richard as narrator tells the audience the films key point: ‘how well do you really know they person that lies next to you?” This theme is driven home as each character is put through the wringer emotionally as they commit what they consider to be unavoidable but horrific sins against the people they love to drive this point home. Durring the course of the film Richard betrays Harry by pursing Kay & lies to Pat to get her to hide her affair from Harry; Kay allows Harry to cheat on his wife as she cheats on Harry; Pat has an affair with a family friend while trying to convince Harry that she is a devoted wife; Harry cheats on his wife with Kay, and hatches a plot to murder his wife so that she can be free of the shame and turmoil that would ensue if he left her for Kay.

This films is best described as a cross between Double Indemnity & American Beauty; it is a film that twists, provides laughs and entangles us in its suspense; Married Life is a film that is intended to portray the tangled web within which we all live our lives, and the lengths in which we will go to achieve a little thing called “happy”.

Director: Ira Sachs
Writer: Ira Sachs & Oren Moverman
Richard: Pierce Brosnan
Harry: Chris Cooper
Kay: Rachel McAdams
Pat: Patricia Clarkson
John: David Wenham

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Originally uploaded by frekemmit89

Enchanted is one in the long line of Disney family films about princesses, their quest for prince charming, and the villainous oppressor that seeks to keep them apart. What makes Enchanted a modern Disney masterpiece worthy of Walt himself is not the tale it tells but how it chooses to tell it; rather than ignore the formula and predecessors of the Disney cannon Enchanted uses the classic Disney formula to its advantage and creates a original and loving homage to the stories that have shaped every generation of children since Snow White.

Bill Kelly and Kevin Lima directly lift from numerous Disney films, the most frequent and obvious being The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Snow White, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp and Beauty and the Beast. Most of these references are idle and don’t impact the plot of the story but are hidden in the body of the film as extra gems for the avid Disney viewer to find.

Less subtle but perhaps even more for the adept Disney film viewer is the fact that several shots in the film are shot-for-shot reproductions of shots in other Disney films only this time created in the live action realm instead of the two dimensional animated films that they are lifted from. First and beautifully reproduced is when Giselle is scrubbing the bathroom floor and bubbles begin to raise each containing Giselle’s reflection as in Cinderella.

The next and most obvious shots are listed from two of the most influential films in the Disney cannon: Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. Both of these shots take place in the King’s & Queen’s Ball at the end of the film.

Perhaps the most famous shot in Beauty in the Beast is when Belle and the Beast are dancing in the grand ballroom and the shot begins eye level with the chandelier at the top of the ballroom and sweeps down to the Beast and Belle dancing; this is magnificently recreated as Giselle and Robert dance together at the ball. The next is one of the most iconic shots from Snow White; Giselle takes a bite from the poison apple offered to her by the Queen and the next shot after she has fallen to the ground we see her limp arm hit the floor and the apple roll away from her, just like Snow White as she falls to the ground and loses her grip on the apple.

Enchanted is heralded as one of the new gems in the Disney crown; however, this film would not be the critical achievement that it is if it were not for the actors involved. The ability of this story to shift from cheesy and overdone tale of Disney fluff to heartfelt, and iconic Disney tale rests not only on the talent of the writer and director but on the ability of the talented cast to turn the eccentric world in which they exist into reality instead of pretending it’s all camp and no substance.

Amy Adams has been lauded with two Oscar nominations. The first for indy flick Junebug, and the second for her role as Giselle. This nomination for Enchanted is no laughing matter; Adams brings an intense naivety and vulnerability to the character that you can’t help but love her and want her to turn New York into the fanciful place she believes the world should be. A prefect example is the first scene Adams is onscreen after her character shifts from being animated to a three dimensional human. As she sits in her shock, agony and desperation she discovers her new body and slowly the overwhelming new world around her; when Adams embodies the character we uncover the true meaning of Enchanted – Giselle becomes three dimensional and spends the rest of the story discovering that her body is not just three dimensional but she is as well as she takes control over her destiny and her life.

The next character who should be lauded for every film he appeared in this year is the masterful James Marsden. His character Prince Edward is obviously two dimensional, but preformed and written with such skill as his simple mindedness becomes his most endearing quality. Prince Edward is self-involved, vane and single-minded but the performance is played with just enough exuberance that Marsden makes Edward completely believable as a fairy tale prince without turning the character into one that grates on the audience as he delivers every exuberant line.

The final leading character is played more subtly than Adams and Marsden and from the opposite end the of characters spectrum, this character would be Robert played by adorable Patrick Dempsey. Unlike Giselle and Edward Robert comes from a world where love ends, people abandon and his little girl faces life without her mother. He is the biggest skeptic of Giselle’s way of thinking and when played off Adams through the course of the film Dempsey makes his character’s gradual transition from skeptic to romantic flawless, understated and believable. Too often subtle acting is overlooked and Dempsey deserves his due for the ease in which Robert and Giselle slowly begin to realize that their two lives can create one magnificent new reality.

Enchanted creates a fantasy world that perfectly blends fantasy with reality and promises fresh, new potential for the princess films that follow it.

Director: Kevin Lima
Writer: Bill Kelly
Giselle: Amy Adams
Robert Phillip: Patrick Dempsey
Prince Edward: James Marsden
Morgan Phillip: Rachel Covey
Nathaniel: Timothy Spall
Nancy Tremaine: Idina Menzel
Queen Narissa: Susan Sarandon

Morgan Philip: Remember not to put too much makeup or the boys may get the wrong idea. They are only after one thing.
Giselle: What's that?
Morgan Philip: I don't know. They won't tell me.